Thursday, January 24, 2013

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

I have witches on the brain this week. First, I'm breaking down The Wizard of Oz with my film class, and am blogging about it on my Screenwriting Tricks blog

Then my Llewellyn's Witch's Datebook came this week. Very exciting, especially since I need to track the progression of the moon very closely to figure the exact chronology of the events in Blood Moon. I also love knowing the color of every day, and browsing through the other cool Craft tips and tricks.

Now, I’m not a witch. Really. Not really. No more than any woman is a witch.
ShadowsSMYes, my thriller Book of Shadows is about a cynical Boston cop who teams up with a mysterious Salem witch to solve what looks like a Satanic murder. And naturally ever since it came out people have assumed I’m a witch (that’s with a "w"). Oh, the interviewers don’t come right out and say it, but you know that’s what they’re asking,
The fact is, every time you write a book everyone always assumes it’s about you. Few people get that most times when you write a book, it’s about getting OUT of yourself. Just like reading is, right?
But I can’t deny that writing Book of Shadows was a really excellent opportunity for me to indulge some of my witchier nature. I wanted to dive right in and explore some of those things that make some men – and a lot of women – uncomfortable with feminine power, and feminine energy, and feminine sexuality, and feminine deity.

And I’ve been working up to this book for quite a while. I’ve been around practicing witches most of my life. That’s what happens when you grow up in California, especially Berkeley. Actually the Berkeley part pretty much explains why I write supernatural to begin with, but that’s another post. Those of you who have visited Berkeley know that Telegraph Avenue, the famous drag that ends at the Berkeley campus, is a gauntlet of clothing and craft vendors, artists, and fortune tellers, forever fixed in the sixties. Well, look a little closer, and you’ll see just how many pagans, Wiccans, and witches there actually are.

I’ve walked that gauntlet thousands of times in my life. It does something to your psyche, I’m telling you.

There was also the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, where I spent many springtime days in my interestingly misspent youth. Renaissance Faires are teeming with witches (check out the Fortune Tellers’ Grove next time if you don’t believe me).

So even though I don’t actually practice, not in an organized covenish kind of way, I’ve been to a ceremony or two, and you could say I’ve been researching this book for quite some time. In fact, I think I’ve known I was going to write this book ever since I first saw a "Calling of The Corners," a Craft ceremony which is one of the ritual scenes I depict in Book of Shadows. It’s one of the most extraordinary spiritual experiences I've ever had -- such elemental, feminine power.

And in everyday life, there some things that are just useful to know about the Craft.
I’m not much for spells, I’m more of a meditator. But when I had to kick my evil tenants out of my rental house? A cleaning service was just not enough. You better believe that the second the locksmith was done changing the locks, I was down at the witch supply store, buying black and white candles (for protection and cleansing), and sage (smudge it for purification). I opened every window and swept the whole house widdershins (to the left, to dismiss) with a new broom dipped in salt and rosemary to dispel all lingering energy. Ritual works, and it doesn’t really matter what accoutrements you use; it’s really about the intention: in this case to cleanse, heal, and start over fresh.

Another concept of the Craft that I’ve always found particularly useful is Maiden, Mother, Crone. Those are the three aspects of the Goddess, and also the three phases of the moon, corresponding colors white, red and black. They represent the three cycles of a woman’s life – youth, womanhood and age – but women also pass through all three aspects every month when they’re menstruating, and knowing that has saved my life (and the lives of many of those around me) many a time.

The time right after your period is Maiden: you have a rush of estrogen, so you’re glowing, you’ve just dropped all that water weight, you have a ton of energy, and you’re – well, up for it. And men can sense it.  Best time to snag a partner, although your choices might not be exactly the best in this most optimistic phase of the cycle.

The Mother (also called Queen) phase of the month is around ovulation. You’re powerful, grounded, and can get a lot done, especially creatively, because of the pregnancy connotations. It’s a sexy time in a different way than Maiden, because there’s the extra knowledge that yes, you really can get pregnant right now.

The Crone phase is raging PMS and the "death" that a period often feels like. Wise people know to avoid you at this time unless they want a faceful of truth, and I try not to schedule meetings, especially with men, when I’m in this phase. Best for me to be solitary and contemplative. And contain the damage.

But the things that come out of your mouth during this phase are the deep truth, even if they’re not pleasant, and if you remember to breathe, put the knife down, and pay attention to what you’re feeling and saying, you can learn a lot about your life and what you really need to be doing. Also your dreams will tend to be the most powerful, vivid, and significant in this phase. I know mine are.

I appreciate the earth/nature centeredness of the Craft. I like to be aware of whether the moon is waxing or waning, and focus on bringing things into my life during the waxing, and letting go of things (or people!) in the waning. And I like knowing that there is extra power and magic at the Solstices and Equinoxes; that knowledge makes me stop at least four times a year to consider what I really want to manifest in my life.

Let’s face it: I also like the clothes. With my hair, I’ll never be able to pull off the tailored look. I love lace and fishnets and velvet and sparkles and corsets and big jewelry. I love the candles and the scents and that every day has its own color (today is crimson, if you’re wondering).
And there is another aspect of the Craft that has been truly important to me, spiritually. It’s about balance. I have never, ever bought the idea that God is male. It runs contrary to my entire experience of reality. I love you guys, really I do, but you’re only half the equation. I can’t see how an ultimate power could be anything but BOTH male and female. So the notion of a Goddess, in all Her forms, to me, completes the equation.

And a Supreme Being who likes velvet and fishnets? Even better.

So what’s your take on witches? Are you familiar with the way witchcraft is actually practiced, or is that whole world completely mysterious to you? Or do you do the odd spell or two yourself?
- Alex


  1. Thank you! I've always felt a connection with witchcraft, Wiccan, Paganism. Never did anything completely serious with it, but bought a few books and I know there is a connection with nature.

    Love your writing on Maiden, Mother, Crone--and your connecting it to a woman's cycle. Sheesh! Gynecologists should have that info, my husband should have that info!

    I always pause on the solstices and thank whomever. And I love my atomic clock, it tells me when the moon is waxing and waning!

  2. Amy, I've always clued my SO's and male coworkers into that Maiden Mother Crone thing. Everyone gets along so much better when they know WHO they're dealing with. ;)

    I agree that gynecologists should know. But especially, girls should know from the time they start their periods. It's so much more sane and helps in so many practical ways. For example, it's easiest to lose weight in Maiden, if you need to take off a few pounds, and nearly impossible to do that in Crone, there's no point in torturing yourself.

    Wow, though, a clock that tells you if the moon is waxing or waning? I NEED that!

  3. I love old things, and never wanted anything hanging on a wall that looked...useful. I now adore this clock with outside and indoor temps as well as date and of course the moon thing--yes, you do need that!

  4. Fascinating! Witchcraft (the good kind) has always interested me. Growing up in the Bible Belt witchcraft in any form was discouraged. I believe God is real and is benevolent. I've read many books featuring witches. Now I wish you would post some reference information for me and others. Book of Shadows was the first book of yours that I read. Another question--how do you use the cslender for plotting?

  5. And, something I want to share. In January 1988 a dear friend living in California sent me a plane ticket for a get away following the death of my dad. Dallas was frozen. My seatmate was a frightening looking man. At least to me. Multiple tattos and piercings. All in black. He wore several rings with pentagrams and skulls. I was shivering because it was so cold. This man took off his long black coat and covered me with it. When the meal was served he offered me his sandwich and told me he never had meat until the evening. He was reading and highlighting a book about becoming a, what the hell is it called about becoming the male leader of a coven. I have wished since that time that I hadn't been too shy, and a bit frightened, to talk to him. As I've become older Ihave become more vocal and curious about learning things about the beliefs of everyone. Enough said. . .

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